Posts Tagged Debra Green

7 MG Novels to Celebrate International Day of Mathematics

According to the official website, today is International Day of Mathematics, a global celebration of math. And while math aficionados around the world will be celebrating in various ways, we here at the Mixed-Up Files are commemorating the day by highlighting a few of our favorite middle-grade novels that showcase math in a literary way. If you have a favorite middle-grade math novel, let us know in the comments section. (Mouse over the titles for purchasing information.)

Violet and the Pie of Life by D.L. Green

Twelve-year-old Violet has two great loves in her life: math and pie. And she loves her parents, even though her mom never stops nagging and her dad can be unreliable. Mom plus Dad doesn’t equal perfection. Still, Violet knows her parents could solve their problems if they just applied simple math.

#1: Adjust the ratio of Mom’s nagging to her compliments.
#2: Multiply Dad’s funny stories by a factor of three.
#3: Add in romantic stuff wherever possible.

But when her dad walks out, Violet realizes that the odds do not look good. Why can’t her parents get along like popular, perfect Ally’s parents? Would it be better to have no dad at all, like her best friend, McKenzie? Violet is considering the data when she and Ally get cast in the school play, and McKenzie doesn’t–a probability that Violet never calculated. Maybe friendship and family have more variables than she thought. Filled with warmth, math-y humor, and delicious pie, this heartfelt middle grade read is perfect for fans of The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl. Includes illustrated charts, graphs, and diagrams throughout.


All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall

Based on a true story, All of the Above is the delightful and suspenseful story of four inner city students and their quest to build the world’s largest tetrahedron.

Weaving together the different personal stories of the kids, their teacher, and the community that surrounds them, award-winning author Shelley Pearsall has written a vividly engaging story about math, life, and good-tasting barbecue.

Filled with unexpected humor, poignant characters and quiet brilliance, All of the Above is a surprising gem.



The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

Lucy Callahan’s life was changed forever when she was struck by lightning. She doesn’t remember it, but the zap gave her genius-level math skills, and she’s been homeschooled ever since. Now, at 12 years old, she’s technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test–middle school!

Lucy’s grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that’s not a math textbook!). Lucy’s not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy’s life has already been solved. Unless there’s been a miscalculation?

A celebration of friendship, Stacy McAnulty’s smart and thoughtful middle-grade debut reminds us all to get out of our comfort zones and embrace what makes us different.


Solving for M by Jennifer Swender

When Mika starts fifth grade at the middle school, her neat life gets messy. Separated from old friends and starting new classes, Mika is far from her comfort zone. And math class is the most confusing of all, especially when her teacher Mr. Vann assigns math journals. Art in math? Who’s ever heard of such a thing?

But when challenges arise at home, Mika realizes there are no easy answers. Maybe, with some help from friends, family, and one unique teacher, a math journal can help her work out problems, and not just the math ones.

Debut author Jennifer Swender delivers poignant prose and illustrator Jennifer Naalchigar brings Mika’s journal to life in this perfect equation of honesty plus hope that adds up to a heartwarming coming-of-age story.


Giant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heuiser Hill

Who are you, if you can’t be what you always expected? A moving coming-of-age tale of prodigy and community, unlikely friendship and growing things.

Twelve-year-old Rose Brutigan has grown seven inches in the last eight months. She’s always been different from her twin brother, Thomas, but now she towers over him in too many ways. The gap in their interests continues to widen as well. Rose, who loves both music and math, is focused on winning the upcoming Bach Cello Suites Competition, while happy-go-lucky Thomas has taken up the challenge of growing a giant pumpkin in the yard of their elderly neighbor, Mr. Pickering. But when a serious accident changes the course of the summer, Rose is forced to grow and change in ways she never could have imagined.

Along the way there’s tap dancing and classic musicals, mail-order worms and neighborhood-sourced compost, fresh-squeezed lemonade, the Minnesota State Fair — and an eclectic cast of local characters that readers will fall in love with.


Secret Coders #1 by Gene Luen Yang, illus. by Mike Holmes

This is Book 1 of the series by Gene Luen Yang who was the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature from 2016 to 2018 and is a MacArthur Fellow, a recipient of what’s popularly known as the MacArthur “Genius” Grant.

Welcome to Stately Academy, a school which is just crawling with mysteries to be solved! The founder of the school left many clues and puzzles to challenge his enterprising students. Using their wits and their growing prowess with coding, Hopper and her friend Eni are going to solve the mystery of Stately Academy no matter what it takes!

From graphic novel superstar (and high school computer programming teacher) Gene Luen Yang comes a wildly entertaining new series that combines logic puzzles and basic programming instruction with a page-turning mystery plot!


Numbed! by David Lubar

When Logan’s class takes a trip to a math museum, his mischievous friend Benedict is sure it will be a boring day―until he discovers a robot and its creator in an off-limits area. The robot proves feisty, and soon both boys get zapped. They realize only later that they’d left the museum without their math skills.

To get back the knowledge they need for school―not to mention buying food at the mall, divvying up dinner at home, and much more―they’ll have to get back to the museum and pass a series of math challenges. Being “numbed” teaches Logan and Benedict just how useful, and even fun, math can be.



VIOLET AND THE PIE OF LIFE by Debra Green: Interview + Giveaway

Today, I’m thrilled to present my interview with Debra Green, author of Violet and the Pie of Life and many more books for kids. Debra is known for writing with both humor and heart, and her new middle-grade novel is no exception. Plus, there’s pie! What’s not to love? Debby has generously offered to send an autographed copy of her book to a lucky winner. Read all about her and her new book and then scroll down to click on the Rafflecopter for a chance to win. (U.S. only).

All About the Author

In addition to Violet and the Pie of Life, Debra Green, AKA D.L. Green, AKA Debra Garfinkle, is the author of several humorous chapter book series such as Zeke Meeks, Silver Pony Ranch, and The Funny Girl.

She lives in Southern California and spends her mornings writing fiction before her day job as a lawyer. She loves giving writing workshops and talks at libraries, schools, and conferences.

To learn more about Debra, visit her website.



All About the Book

Tell us about Violet and the Pie of Life.

It’s a contemporary middle grade novel with humor and heart, about a math-loving seventh grade girl named Violet Summers who uses charts, graphs, and equations to try to fix her life. She has a lot to calculate after her father leaves and she wins the part in the school play that her best friend wanted. There’s pi, pie, laughs, and a cry.


What was the inspiration behind the novel?

Me, she says narcissistically. My parents went through a messy separation and divorce when I was about Violet’s age. Also, I was in the same play, The Wizard of Oz, that Violet is in. And I’ve always liked math; it’s so clear-cut, with only one right answer. Finally, like Violet, I love pie.


I loved all the mathematical diagrams. Was it difficult coming up with the drawings that reflect Vi’s problems (and solutions) in life?

Thank you. It wasn’t hard coming up with the diagrams. That was very fun. My brother is a math professor, and I think I have a little of that math gene. But I am not good at drawing, so it wasn’t easy trying to convey my vision to the artist at my publisher, Holiday House. I asked three twelve-year-old girls (my friends’ daughters) to look through all the charts and graphs and equations to inform me which ones were boring, hard to figure out, etc. Then I revised and deleted the ones that weren’t working. The girls were very helpful. I wanted the math diagrams to be entertaining and not resemble pages from a math textbook in any way. I think the artist at Holiday House carried that off really well.


I agree. As a kid, were you involved in school plays like Vi?

I was the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. I loved playing the villain. I also played the nurse in Romeo and Juliet, which was the one funny part in that tragedy, and the wacky woman in The Madwomen of Chaillot. Even as a kid, I always got the comic relief roles.


Writing Middle-Grade Fiction

You write for many age groups. What aspect of writing for the middle-grade audience makes it special for you? 

My preteen years were the hardest of my life. When I was ten, my parents separated, my best friend died of leukemia, my grandfather had a fatal heart attack, and my dog died after getting hit by a car. I was like Job Junior. Many decades later, I may still be still processing some of that pain through fiction. Books have always helped get me through bad times. I hope to bring some cheer to a middle-grade reader who might need it.


Wow! That had to be so difficult for you. What else do you hope readers take away from Violet and the Pie of Life?          

I hope readers see that math can be fun, interesting, and useful. I hope they’ll open themselves up to new friendships. Most of all, I hope readers will find my novel entertaining.


What is your best tip for those interested in writing for the middle-grade audience?

Keep asking yourself whether you’re writing honestly. Even if you’re writing humor or fantasy, characters’ motivations, actions, reactions, and emotions should ring true so that readers will care about them and their stories.

Click here for an archived Mixed-Up Files post on Debra’s tips for writing funny.


What can readers look forward to seeing from you in the future?

I’m excited to have a story in the anthology coming out next March called Coming of Age: 13 B’Nai Mitzvah Stories.


We here at The Mixed-Up Files are looking forward to that book, too. Congratulations, Debra, and thanks for talking to us and offering to send a signed copy of your novel to a lucky winner! 

For a chance to win, click the link below before Saturday midnight:

a Rafflecopter giveaway